Computing with Bifocals - Back to School, New Software, & a New Apple Store
- July 22nd, 2004
Back To School
In the middle of May, I spent the better part of three days at a local public middle school. The term "public" school in the US refers to the educational system supported by taxpayers that is available to all children. We call schools "private" if parents pay a fee to send their children there. In our local school district, middle school encompasses grades six, seven, and eight. For those unfamiliar with the US school system, grades six, seven, and eight are for children ages twelve through about fifteen. Yes, the dreaded early adolescence years.
OK, so it has been oh, 49 years since I spent time in a middle school during the actual school day, surrounded by actual students -- hundreds of actual students. So what is 49 years, give or take a few? After all, I have literally stared down conservative state legislators who wanted to argue with me that mentally retarded individuals didn't deserve more than a place to sleep and "3 squares a day," convinced a state trooper that I had a legitimate reason to be speeding in a state-owned vehicle when I was really going to a mall, and handled an angry employee waiving a gun. What were a few hundred kids? Besides, my undergraduate degree is in education. Right? Right.
Actually, the few hundred kids turned out to be a piece of cake and I had a wonderful time. I was there as part of our local Macintosh Users Group (CapMac) Tutor-a-Teacher program. Our local school system has elected to put Mac carts in all the schools and CapMac supports the teachers and students in any way we can.
The carts contain 20 laptops, an eMac, and a Cannon digital video camcorder. The carts have built-in electrics so the computers can be moved from classroom to classroom as needed. We have worked through the proper administrative loops and met with the tech support staff for the district to let them know we are available.
In this case, all the seventh and eighth grade history classes in this school had end-of-school assignments that required small groups to research a topic and then create an iMovie demonstrating some aspect of their research. The kids, of course, loved the whole concept of making a movie. Only about one person in each class had ever done one before.
I came on the scene as an "iMovie technical advisor." I'm sure many who know me well are vastly amused at me being a technical advisor for anything, but I spent a great deal of time learning to use iMovie so that I could teach a special class on it for another part of our CapMac efforts, so I was fairly confident that I could answer any question I was asked.
The classes were all at different stages of the movie-making process as would be expected. Some had finished filming their movie and had even managed to download them to iMovie, but they didn't know how to edit. Other classes were just starting to film. At one point I sort of flitted between classes, though I hadn't "flitted" for many years. I worked with various small groups, showing them as quickly as possible how to edit, create titles, add music or sound, and play their movie.
I heard over and over again "Man, this is easy." I also learned a couple of things that I didn't know from one student. I expected that to happen. I ran into problems when I discovered that all of the machines did not have the same version of iMovie installed. The versions went from 2.0.1 to 4.0.1. I learned on 4.0.1 and couldn't figure out how to complete a task on the older version. However, once I thought it through, the basic knowledge of iMovie that I had picked up helped me figure out how to solve the problem.
My schedule would not allow me to go back and see how they all turned out, so I find myself wondering if everyone finished on time. There was a lot of clowning around and flirting and pushing and other behaviors typical of this particular age group. Some were silly, some were very serious, a few were very polite, remembering to thank me for my help and remembering my name, but I think the one who got the most out of the whole experience was me; however, I was smart enough to get out of the way when I was caught in the hall and the bell rang. There was way too much energy surging into those halls.
I have checked out a nifty software application that was recommended by a reader, and I am pleased to recommend it myself. It is called PasswordWallet 3.0.4. It is made by Selznick Scientific Software and sells for US$18. There are versions available for both Mac and Windows-based computers and for Palm PDAs.
PasswordWallet provides a secure location to store all your usernames and passwords as well as any other pertinent computer related information. The passwords are scrambled very securely in such a way that only someone with the correct master password can access the file, and you can have more than one wallet in existence at a time which provides even another level of security. For those who understand such things, the encryption technology used by PasswordWallet is called BlowFish and it is licensed for use in PasswordWallet by the US Dept. of Commerce and the National Security Agency.
You can change the master password as frequently as you wish, and the software offers the option of synchronizing between your computer and your Palm. You may be thinking that you really don't need that much security on your computer, but it is better to be safe than sorry. It really is important to safeguard your passwords, particularly for financial information and financial Web sites.
You actually can use PasswordWallet to automatically sign in to many of the Web sites that require you to log in. The exception will be those Web sites that require more than a name and password to log in.
Here is how it works. First I will have created and saved an Entry in my wallet. In this case I am looking at Travelocity. Note that I have the option of opening an individual entry, such as Travelocity, and viewing my actual password, not just dots.
When I want to log into the Travelocity Web site, I just click on the small world shaped icon on the right. That opens the Web site. Then I click on the log in link and when the window opens I follow these directions:
PasswordWallet Auto-Typing Directions
Like all good software, you can download a trial copy and see if it meets your needs. I recommend that you give it serious consideration.
The Adventures of A New Apple Store
Austin, Texas got it's own Apple retail store in June, and along with about 3,200 other happy campers I showed up on the first day to enjoy the fun.
Actually, I was one of the first 50 people in line, meaning I got there 2 hours before the store even opened. Considering I had like a nickle ninty-five to spend, that probably sounds a little foolish, but it was for a good cause and it was fun meeting new Mac enthusiasts.
I was there early to spread the word about our local Mac users group. Austin is a fairly tech savvy city and there are two good sized retail stores that carry Apple products. However, although the staff of those stores always try to help, they don't always know the answers to questions and the stores can't always have everything a user might want or need, so we are really pleased to have a real Apple retail store of our very own. I got a free T-shirt, drooled over all the cool stuff, and spent money in my head. It was a great way to spend a Saturday morning.
Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping. To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.
|Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!
Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.
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